TOURISM TURMOIL IN THE SNOWIES
by Ashlea Wheeler
*Cloud covering the Snowy Mountains at Thredbo. (Photo: Ashlea Wheeler)
2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, but it’s been particularly brutal for the people who rely on tourism in the Snowy Mountains.
Evacuations and panic from the summer bushfires resulted in the usually steady stream of visitors over the busy summer period, slowing to a dribble.
And then, just as people were beginning to venture back into the area, the region was slammed with a second blow. National lockdowns from the pandemic stopped everyone from travelling, at a time when the local tourism industry desperately needed visitors to return.
Hotels and vacation rentals in the Snowies have been unable to take guest bookings for a large portion of the year. Some accommodation providers, such as Kosciuszko Tourist Park, have only been open for one or two months throughout 2020. Owner-Manager Sushil Kamble, says the financial impact has been significant.
“Given the amount of cancellations and refunds and stuff… we have lost a lot of money. It will take at least two years to get us back on track financially because the bills keep coming.”
– Sushil Kamble
Both customers and businesses have been unable to make their usual preparations for the ski season due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
Tourism operators have had to deal with a complicated mess of people requesting date changes and refunds for their bookings.
Executive Officer at Tourism Snowy Mountains Luke Kneller, says 2020 has been a tough year for businesses.
“It’s really hard for them to know what to expect, how much to gear up, have they got to get more staff, it’s just been quite a challenging 6 months,” he said.
Despite these hardships, things are expected to take a turn. “I really think domestic tourism is going to have a really good year this year, and regional towns – especially places like the Snowy Mountains – I think a lot of people… they will want to get out and visit.”
“We are predominantly a domestic destination and I really think the lack of internationals coming in will be countered by the lack of Australians going out and travelling regionally.”
– Luke Kneller
Destination NSW reported that 1.6 million visitors travelled to the Snowy Mountains region in 2019, with one in three hailing from Sydney. People aged 15-29 were the most likely to visit the area. The town of Jindabyne, which normally starts to feel crowded as these young city-dwellers venture inland to the snow, has only seen a tiny portion of its regular visitors so far this winter season.
There were also 27,000 international visitors last year, some of which arrived to staff the ski resorts and help with mountain operations and ski lessons. Mr Kneller said that Australia’s current border restrictions will mean that most of those visitors won’t be turning up this year, but that tourism operators aren’t too worried about it.
On the Slopes
Despite there being travellers itching to head to the Snowy Mountains to hit the slopes this winter, blockers such as lift ticket availability and state border closures, mean many simply can’t get their holiday timing right.
The season has only just started however, and businesses in the Snowies are still hoping that visitors will start flowing back to the region, soon.
— Ashlea Wheeler @globetravelled